My Experience, Strength & Hope In these last moments of 2021, I am reflecting on lessons learned over the past 12 months. I am one of those people who loves all types of learning, but I feel I should qualify that the learning I’m reflecting on today is of the internal sort and in relation to my evolving Allyship journey. In my experience, internal lessons can be the most painful and also the most beautifully profound. Some people might call this processing of lessons “soul searching” while others might term internal work as a personal inventory—whatever you call it—for me the result always seems to lead me to accountability and change. The processing becomes deeply painful for me when there is a disconnect between my actions and my core values. Anguish comes when those disconnected actions cause people I love to hurt. It literally doesn’t matter if it was never my intent to cause pain. Everything is about impact and not intent. (If you remember nothing else from this writing—remember that.)
The published core values for IAHR are: Focused Dedication, Integrity, Service, Enthusiasm & Progress IS Perfection. I’ve had to actively remember that last one recently. I’ve had to remember that my journey as an Ally IS a path and not a destination or a designation. You see—to me—Allyship is about action and aspiration. I ASPIRE to be an Ally—I’m not an Ally because I say I’m an Ally. I am an ally because of who I aspire to be. I am an Ally because of my beliefs and how those beliefs translate into action. And sometimes I fall short. It is important for me to own that, embrace that and learn from it. I’ve also come to realize that maybe it’s important that I share about it—maybe it will help some other aspiring Ally.
Recently, while at a conference I shouldn’t have attended, I had the opportunity to speak with someone about DEI & Allyship. In talking about the fear of making mistakes I said something like, “As allies, we have to get to a place where it’s ok to make mistakes. We have to be brave about transparency in making those mistakes—because they are learning opportunities”. As someone who strives to be more than a performative ally, I recognize that I will be making mistakes. It’s kind of inevitable. As I think about this conversation it’s kind of funny (not funny) because I was literally making one of those mistakes JUST by my presence at this conference—but I didn’t see it yet. I WAS feeling conflicted because I had decided in June of 2020 that I did not want to support this organization any longer—and then a year and a half later I rationalized spending the money for the registration and I rationalized my presence. I was going to support a friend who was speaking for the first time ever. Sounds like a good reason right? That’s what I told myself too. It wasn’t. I know that now and as much as I wish I had realized it then—I didn’t. I compromised my values & beliefs through rationalization; something I’ve always been quite good at. This results in internal conflict. Every. Single. Time.
The next part of my learning came when I realized (like the “ton of bricks” or “2 x 4”) that not only did I hurt myself and my credibility as an ally but, my presence hurt someone I have come to love. Someone who has been a true friend, mentor, sponsor, and advocate for ME. When this ton of bricks hit me, I was talking with this friend—and I really find it hard to describe how I felt in that moment. Anguish is really the only word. I felt anguish. I’m grateful that I’ve learned enough to be able to apologize for the IMPACT my actions had. I’m also grateful that I’ve learned enough to know that I needed to go process this whole situation with someone else. Because my friend, who loves me too, was already saying “It’s ok”. She was already forgiving me. But it didn’t feel OK. Why didn’t it feel ok? Why didn’t I just accept her forgiveness and move on?
Because it is NOT the responsibility of any hurt party to be subjected to the tears and internal processing of the person who caused harm. This only creates a situation where the injured person is now going to try and make ME feel better. In close relationships—this WILL happen. I’ve been on both sides of that scenario and while forgiveness is beautiful—accountability and amends must come first. Without accountability and a true understanding of harm caused, changing for the better (the definition of amend) is impossible. Meaning that without a deep understanding of the harm I caused I won’t be able to DO BETTER next time.
And there will be a next time.
And so, I called and talked this situation and my feelings through with other people. I have a couple people in my circle who understand impact vs intent. These people allowed me to take responsibility. These people didn’t try to make it ok or try to make me feel better. These people acknowledged the learning opportunity and simply listened to me as I processed my mistake. I’m grateful for these people and if you are also on an Ally journey too—my suggestion is that you look for these kinds of people to add to your network. For me, they were invaluable, and I am grateful.
I’m no longer conflicted, and I am no longer beating myself up. I AM more deeply committed to examining how my values align with my participation, my presence, and my support. Hopefully, I won’t make this SAME mistake again. I mean, there will be another mistake. As I said earlier—it’s inevitable—and I will continue to remember that Progress is Perfection. I’ll continue to remember that I will never be a perfect Ally—but I can always strive for that illusive perfection and continue to learn and grow. My hope is that by sharing my learning experience others might relate and maybe—just maybe—not have to make the same mistake I made. Shared experience is a beautiful and wondrous thing.
Happy New Year and here is to a 2022 full of joyful learning together! Love & Light, Sandy